One of the questions we get asked all the time is, “Which web host do you recommend for my WordPress site?” And without fail, our response is always the same:
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of the major things that play into our web hosting recommendation.
- Does the user need email hosting?
- Does the user have a setup that requires a special server configuration?
- Does the user have a lot of traffic, or is their site traffic fairly light?
- How fast do they plan on growing that traffic?
- Do they run a food or photo blog that will require a huge amount of storage, or do they mainly write blog posts?
- What’s the user’s budget?
- How important is security?
- What would be the potential fallout if they were hacked?
It’s no wonder that people get confused by the world of web hosting. It’s a minefield of information, and it seems like most WordPress host reviews are either 1) a thinly veiled sales pitch aimed at earning affiliate income, 2) are based on the experience of one individual over a short period of time, or 3) don’t fully take into account the shopper’s needs. If you’re looking for some data-driven performance comparisons, our WordPress performance comparison post is a good place to start.
Affiliate Income Isn’t Evil
Earning money by recommending a service that you truly support and stand by is awesome. The issue with web hosting affiliate programs is that there is no “one size fits all” solution, and many affiliates paint their preferred provider as the end all be all in web hosting when that’s not the case.
As a developer, I understand the value of a WP Engine account, and for the most part, I’ve been extremely pleased with their service and support. Still, no matter how much I may want them to be the mother of my virtual babies, they aren’t going to be the only host that I recommend to people.
They don’t fit everyone’s needs. And in my opinion, that’s just great. A hobby blogger doesn’t necessarily need an optimized software stack that uses varnish caching or an Nginx web server running on an SSD with a 99.999% SLA. Twenty-seven daily visitors don’t require that level of optimization or attention, especially when twenty-five of them were your mom.
If you’re a writer of online hosting reviews, and your review is positive enough that you want to recommend a company to your readers, please make it a point to let them know which type of customer is going to be best served before you go cashing that affiliate check.
Glowingly Positive or Downright Awful
Have you ever read a web hosting review that said, “The service was pretty mediocre. I mean, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t particularly good either. I’ll keep using them, but only because I’m too lazy to move my stuff elsewhere.”
It’s for the same reason that very few people go to Yelp to write a review about their experience at a new Thai restaurant that didn’t underwhelm or exceed expectations. “It was about what you’d expect from a Thai restaurant. The curry was flavorful, but I’ve had better.”
The main difference between chicken dumplings and Cloud-based VPS is that people are insanely protective of their web projects. They can eat a bad dumpling and move on, but take their app offline for four minutes, and the rage of a thousand suns will pulse through their veins.
Reviews are left by people who are either extremely satisfied or extremely pissed off. There’s rarely a middle ground. People who have the ability to remain objective, especially when it’s their own code at stake, should make it a point to write hosting reviews. I’ll read your stuff. You are the chosen ones.
Ask Questions and Please Listen
It always scares me a little bit when a person or company evangelizes a particular web host for the masses. It’s dangerous territory. In many groups or forums I’m in, people will ask, “what do you think about X host?” and without fail, the first responders chime in saying, “I LOVE THEM SO MUCH THEY MAKE PUPPIES TALK AND FILL MY MOUTH WITH DELICIOUS ICE CREAM TREATS AND OH YEAH SOMETIMES I DO THINGS ON THE INTERNET THERE TOO HERE’S MY AFFILIATE LINK!!!”
Rarely, and I mean rarely, do people ask more questions about the individual or company. Or even make a recommendation with a qualifier like “They’re great if you plan to do X…”
Let’s make an effort to find out which problem we’re solving before we give a blanket “this host is the best” answer. Putting our own best interest aside for a few minutes will result in the best solution for the people around us and build long-term trust.
The Dangers of the “One Host” Recommendation
Not only does recommending only one host do everything for everyone to make sense, but it can also be dangerous. Take a look at a few examples:
For the longest time, the iThemes team recommended HostGator as their preferred web host, only to have HostGator throw BackupBuddy, iThemes’ flagship product, under the bus right along with their long long-term working relationship. That’s obviously not the iThemes team’s fault by any means, but it is something that can happen in this crazy world of business that we live in. For what it’s worth, iThemes now recommend Site5.
Joost de Valk of Yoast.com recommended VPS.net for the longest time, and many people signed up for their service due to that recommendation. Then, after a series of outages and no communication with customers, people started tipping over cars and lighting things on fire, at least in a virtual sense. Somehow, through all of this and due to his allegiance and affiliation with VPS.net, Joost found himself doing PR for VPS.net. He now recommends Synthesis.
Obviously, not every web host is going to purposefully sever a relationship or miss the mark when it comes to living up to an expectation that’s been set by our recommendation, but that’s a risk we take when we “put all of our eggs into one basket” so to speak.
If we diversify our recommendations based on the needs of the people we’re helping, we not only minimize the risk of having everything blow up in our face if the host decides to escape to the Bahamas and never talk to anyone ever again, but we also become a trusted resource for clients and friends, which is pretty awesome.
What has your experience been with web hosting recommendations or reviews? Good, bad, ugly? Chat it up in the comments!